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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 09:59 GMT

Gautier's Olympics surprise

BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson catches up with Britain's newest bobsledder in Calgary, Canada.

If you had told Nicola Gautier three months ago that she would be competing in the Winter Olympics she would have laughed in your face.

The Sheffield University student was training hard for this summer's Commonwealth Games in Manchester where she will take part in the heptathlon.

Gautier is ranked third in Britain in the seven-discipline event, behind the likes of Denise Lewis.

But just out of curiosity she decided to ring the British Bobsleigh Association to enquire about the Olympic selection process. That was in July.

"A lot of the physical training for bobsleigh is very similar to what I do for the heptathlon"
Gautier on her two disciplines

In November, she stepped foot in a bobsleigh for the first time and just weeks later the 23-year-old was selected for the British two-woman's bobsleigh squad.

Gautier said: "It has all happened so fast. I'm still pinching myself because I still find it hard to believe that I am competing in the Winter Olympics.

"I contacted the bobsleigh association because a friend of mine did it last year and really enjoyed the experience.

"I didn't think then that a few months later I would be in Salt Lake City."

It is the first time two-women's bobsleigh has been included in the Winter Olympics and two teams from Great Britain have qualified for the Games.

Gautier has impressed so much in training and race-offs that she has been promoted to the GB1 team, where she teams up with driver Cheryl Done.

The GB2 team consists of driver Michelle Coy and brakewoman Jackie Davies.

Gautier said: "A lot of the physical training for bobsleigh is very similar to what I do for the heptathlon but I picked up the technique pretty quick.

"All the other athletes have been great towards me and they have really accepted me into the squad with open arms."

"It is all very exciting and I can't wait to get to the Olympic Village"
Gautier on the Olympic thrill

She beat first reserve Zoe Crawford and Claire Nex for a coveted place in the squad.

Gautier said: "Claire was carrying an injury in the second half of the season so it was really hard on her that she didn't qualify. She was upset but she has taken it really well."

The men's and women's bobsleigh teams are currently in Calgary as they fine-tune their techniques ahead of the Games.

They have managed to squeeze some leisure time in as well and have had trips to Banff and Lake Louise as well as visiting Calgary Tower and the city's zoo.

The teams will fly down to Salt Lake City for the opening ceremony and Gautier cannot wait.

She said: "It is all very exciting and I can't wait to get to the Olympic Village."

Gautier and Done are not ruling out a medal but said realistically they are hoping to finish in the top eight on 19 February.

After the Olympics, Gautier will then swap back to the heptathlon.

She added: "The heptathlon and bobsleigh seasons do not clash so there is no reason why I can't continue doing both events."


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